This profile of Campbell Brown in today’s Washington Post serves as an unfortunate reminder of how toxic education politics have bled over into the press. And no, the issue isn’t about Diane Ravitch complaining that Brown gets attention only because she’s a pretty face.
I wrote these kinds of pieces for years. In a news section, even a Style section, there are a few simple rules a writer is supposed to follow You frame both sides of the issue, and then tell the story of your protagonist. In a Style piece, you can make that protagonist look ridiculous, but only after a fair framing. Here, Paul Fahri fails to frame fairly. Most interesting, his editors failed to step in to re-balance, which illustrates the depth of the press problem.
Fahri starts out fine, citing the union side of the issue: Tenure is nothing more than simple due process. Aren’t teachers deserving of due process? Aren’t we all? Randi Weingarten herself couldn’t have framed it better.
Next up should be the Campbell Brown side of the issue: Teachers almost never get fired for either incompetence or sexual transgressions. The statistics here are easy to find, and downright startling. But this side of the issue never gets cited.
As a result, innocent readers must be left asking themselves: Why does Campbell Brown want to hurt those nice teachers?
Is there another issue where the press has become so compromised? I can’t think of one. Even global warming and abortion usually get fair framings. But not education,which has become more toxic than abortion.
Yes, I know: I’m part of the problem. I write “biased” pieces about education. But I’m an opinion writer. My pieces run in clearly marked opinion sections. This piece ran in the Post’s Style section. There’s nothing on that page to warn readers that this piece would offer a one-sided take on the issue. And unfortunately, this Post piece is not atypical.
In fact, this is mild compared to press coverage of charter schools, where reporters routinely refer to the schools as hobbies for “hedge funders.” Rarely is it pointed out that charter schools are public and they serve mostly poor, minority students whose parents have no other school options. Most bizarre: The union charge that charters are a plot to “privatize” public education is treated as rational — perhaps even a given.
My sense: This is going to get worse before it gets better.